The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) has put together an excellent internship program for area youth. Called the Summer Youth Job Training Program (SYJTP), the program partners with business and community leaders to offer Lexington youth the opportunity to gain work experience; develop interpersonal skills; and learn and explore vocational interests. This is also a paid internship for the youth. The program is open to youth ages 14 - 17, and they are paid through LFUCG.
The program began with a job fair, where all the participating businesses filled a gymnasium at Winburn Middle School. Over 300 students filed through and talked with whichever business caught their attention. It was an interview for both sides. The students learned what each business was about and what the scope of work would entail, but it was also the first interview to see if the business thought the student would be a good fit for them. Both sides ranked their choices first through last, and the SYJTP coordinators matched the best fits together.
This was the first year Klausing Group participated in the SYJTP, and we were awarded three interns for the 6 week program. Timari Johnson, Jenny Castanon, and Ethan Martion were as diverse in background as they were charming in character. They started their first job ever on a Monday with other new-hire employees and went through our orientation program. Afterward, they met with their supervisors and went to work.
We set a schedule for them that provided opportunities to work in each aspect of our landscape business. They spent time with Account Managers, Field Supervisors, Landscape Maintenance Crew Leaders, and Landscape Construction Crew Leaders. Additionally, they worked in the shop, and helped with irrigation, and learned about Integrated Pest Management. They even worked within the office learning about the behind-the-scenes operations of a business.
Left to right: Ethan Martion, Jenny Castanon, and Timari Johnson.
After the first couple days, I recall Timari talking about how tired her arms were; Ethan with his quiet questions; and Jenny asking when she'll get to drive a tractor. Soon enough they were part of the team, joking with people and jumping in to help and get their hands dirty. They learned quickly, gained confidence, and became important contributors to each crew whether in the field, shop, or office.
By the end of the six weeks, they each talked with confidence about which focus of the company they had enjoyed the most. Timari loved the management side, Jenny loved the equipment and field work, and Ethan's favorite was whichever team he worked with most recently. His excitement was palpable. Above all, each agreed the best part of the internship was the people they worked with. I have to give a special shout-out to Mr. Bobby Purdom who was the unanimous favorite.
But this program was not only good for the interns. Being a mentor to someone new to the world of having a 'real job' was a fun experience for Klausing Group's employees. One mentor, Trenton Noel, remarked, "I wish I had that opportunity when I was in middle school. It was fun to work with young minds."
Klausing Group had such a great experience with our interns that we plan on participating in the Summer Youth Job Training Program again next year. In fact, all three of our interns stated they'd be interested in returning next summer to work with us again. I'd call that a successful program.